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Hellmut: The Badass from Hell

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Grindstone
Developer: Volcanicc
Release Date: May 3, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Hellmut: The Badass from Hell'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 6, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is a gun-toting, roguelike dungeon-crawler with retro-style pixelated graphics and a variety of neat mechanics.

The portable nature of the Nintendo Switch makes it a good fit for roguelikes. Even on a good run, you won't spend too much time on a stage or boss fight, and short bursts of gameplay fit the genre well. There are a good number of roguelikes on the system, but only a small handful of them use shooting instead of swordplay as the main mechanic. The current top dog on that short list is Enter the Gungeon. Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is a new game that's trying to gun for that throne, and while it doesn't defeat the king, it makes a good attempt.

The premise immediately tells you that the game doesn't take itself too seriously. A mad scientist has opened the gate to hell to summon a demon that can grant him eternal life. As one would expect, the demon gives him infinite lives, wrecks his lab, and reduces the scientist to a skull with a spinal cord. Sensing an opportunity for amusement, another demon comes through the portal to help the floating skull get some revenge.

As alluded to earlier, Hellmut is a twin-stick roguelike shooter. You have roughly 12 procedurally generated rooms to go through, blowing up enemies until you reach the exit and either repeat the process or go up against a randomly selected boss. As you kill baddies, you can find some new guns, but most of your pick-ups consist of currency. You can spend it in stores that are available on each floor to get more guns for your arsenal or other things, like an increased wallet, health pick-ups, or a magnet to immediately attract currency to you. Interestingly, the game gives you an opportunity to earn more coins in the store if you play the Space Invaders-type arcade machine.

While there's nothing special about the guns you can pick up or buy, the game offers a very interesting hook. At the beginning of Hellmut, you can select the body you'll occupy: a giant rat cosplaying as Rambo or a Frankenstein's monster. Choosing between the two is more than just aesthetics, as they both have different default guns, secondary moves, and health meters. Getting either one killed puts you back in the hopping skull mode, which is still formidable but not the position you want to be in, since death means restarting the run. Collect enough gems, and you can summon the demon that is helping you get your revenge, and completing his timed kill challenges means getting the opportunity to don a new suit. While there aren't too many suits to claim, their new powers and randomization keep the journey fresh, since obtaining suits feels like getting a new gun or weapon.

Even if you look at the body-swapping mechanic as another interpretation of extra lives, the game still brings about some enjoyment thanks to the almost non-stop action. Every room fills up with enemies rather quickly, and since some rooms immediately activate barriers until you can shut them down, you'll often be forced to blast everything just to get some breathing room. The bullet hell influence is here, and even if it doesn't mean that the screen is filled with ridiculous bullet patterns, you still need spatial awareness, since you lack a dodge move. Hallways are the only safe zones aside from stores, but those are short enough that breaks in the action don't feel too long. In short, the game delivers on the shooting part rather well.

There are two major issues that prevent Hellmut from being one of the best roguelike shooters. The first has to do with the camera, which is surprising since the top-down viewpoint shouldn't be the source of any issues. However, the level of zoom is enough to make the characters sizeable while also obscuring parts of the rooms. The camera also moves toward wherever you point your gun, which also happens in titles like Enter the Gungeon. When combined with the zoom, though, it makes you forget about enemies until they surprise you with a shot.

The second issue has to do with unlocking new bodies to occupy. The system in place is quite brilliant, as you're forced to rely on fast reflexes, but you actually need to beat the game to unlock a new body. There aren't that many bodies to unlock, so you won't need that many successful runs to unlock them all.

If you tire of getting in multiple runs for the campaign, Hellmut offers a few alternative modes. Gauntlet mode is essentially survival mode, but you have a friend in tow, which always increases the fun factor. There's also a tournament mode, which makes things competitive yet fair, as everyone is competing to see who gets the best run through the game, eliminating the randomization in the process. Compared to other roguelikes, these are some good modes that should also pop up in other titles.

The presentation is quite good. The pixel look is decidedly retro but pleasant-looking, especially once the bullets start flying and the screen holds up with everything happening on-screen, from the multitude of enemies to the persistent gore and flying body parts. Everything animates well, including the debris that you can fling around. The sound effects are meaty, and the music is also well done. One nice touch is that you can choose a modern soundtrack filled with chiptunes, or a blend of both, which makes for a pleasing sonic signature.

Hellmut: The Badass from Hell is a few steps short of being an all-around must-have roguelike shooter. The camera is zoomed in enough and just jerky enough that some enemies can be easily hidden from view. There's also the character unlocking process, which is only valuable if you plan on taking multiple successful runs through the game. With that said, the action is excellent, and the flaws aren't enough to stop the title from having that sort of magic that beckons you for one more run. Despite not being the first choice for a roguelike shooter, Hellmut is ultimately a good choice.

Score: 7.5/10

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